Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a labyrinth of possibilities that, when planned and executed well, can provide great exposure for our businesses and make today’s Marketing Manager quite secure in their job. But, don’t get too comfortable just yet. It’s still a ‘here today and gone tomorrow’ world. Ranking factors and relevant tactics change constantly and if unattended to, ailing metrics can soon become washed-up casualties on the shores of a neglected website. Just a few years ago, we mused over the complexities of SEO and how Schema, SSL, and mobile friendliness had entered the algorithm conundrum. Fast forward a few years and while still at play, those elements are at play, for sure, but 2018 brought new considerations that complicate the SEO landscape more so than ever. Here are five focus areas to keep in mind when it comes to SEO in 2018.
1) Too Slow is a No-Go!
More and more is demanded of us today. Technology is advancing faster than we can keep up. Millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce. These digital natives are picky consumers, too. What does all this lead to…instant gratification, that’s what! So if you have a chunky website that’s bulging with code-bloat, large images and a slow server, buckle-up for a bumpy downhill ride. Google expects websites to load in under 3 seconds or less, so if you hover in the 10-second range, not only is Google considering this in their ranking factors, but statistics suggest you’ll be losing over 50% of your potential traffic for such a slow-loading site. People just don’t have the time or patience anymore, and it’s worse on mobile sites where the expectation for quick-loading material is critical to keep a user engaged. Running a page website speed-test on a tool like Pingdom is a good first step. Once you have your answers and assuming there’s some pain to deal with, consider compressing images, improved caching, minifying the code, using a private server or moving to a CDN.
2) Mobile First, Last and Everything
“We don’t have to worry about mobile,” I heard someone say recently. “Our customers find us mostly on desktops.” Ordinarily, this is a logical thought, and for a second I was glad and appreciative that they’ve been paying attention to Google Analytics, demographic data and had a good grasp on their audience and user behavior. But there’s more to the situation than many realize. For years, Google has pushed for mobile-friendly websites and we saw an abundance of effort across all industries to create that experience. What few people appreciate, is that 2018 is the year that Google changed their ranking algorithm based on mobile-first, meaning that the ranking of your domain (which up until 2018 was factored on the desktop website experience) is now based on the mobile version of your website. So, it’ll be naive of you to think it’s just about the desktop user-experience anymore. Optimize your mobile site, make it fast, content-rich and easy to use and you’ll stay on top of these recent web raking changes from Google.
3) “Siri…Search Bond, James Bond”
Those far-fetched scenes of Bond using a super-tech gadget to help him defeat the bad guys or Michael Knight summoning “Kit” to the recuse with his watch seemed laughably cool back in the day. While I took a “that’ll never happen approach”, there’s a proliferation of smart devices flooding the market, meaning voice commands and voice search are becoming normal. In fact, Google suggests that voice search is used daily by 55% of teens and 40% of adults, opening the doors to an assault on strategies in place for typed search. We’ve long been aware of and paid attention to a searchers intent, but now with voice search and smart devices dominating our homes, workspaces, and wearables, we must adapt and optimize for a new set of search and keyword strategies. I bet it’s not long before we can just think about searching for something and it happens! For those of you in Central NY looking for more great information on leveraging search and smart devices, we have an informative workshop planned for early this summer.
4) Local Search and other SERP Features
Click-through studies show the #1 organic listing for a search term may garner as much as a 25% CTR. And the drive for that top organic spot has been the holy grail of SEO for as long as SEO has been a thing. While paid ads have their moment in the spotlight and can complement an organic listing in SERPS, we know there’s a lot of people that bypass Ad options or use Adblocker. But a SERP isn’t as simple as it once was. Expanded SERP features, from Knowledge Panels, to Shopping Links, to deeper site links, to Google My Business (GMB) profiles, are creeping-in on and tarnishing the impact of organic listings. The result is simple, less organic listing clicks due to more options on the SERPS page. But does it really hurt? Probably not, but only if you’re measuring ALL engagement on a SERPS page. A searcher reviewing a SERP who knows a business name but not the URL may bypass the homepage link and dig into the GMB listing to check location details, opening hours, photos, videos and reviews. All good engagement if you’re the one responsible for keeping these details updated. Tracking these elements of engagement in Search Console is important to understand as it’s typical to see engagement picking up on GMB while main site engagement may plateau or dip. The aggregation of these platforms and cumulative conversion analysis is what matters most, so don’t get disgruntled if main site metrics aren’t trending aggressively upwards.
5) Quality over Quantity for Valued Conversions
Long gone are the days of measuring the impact of SEO through traffic and keywords. Any Marketing Manager worth their weight will have a deeper understanding of important metrics and will hopefully be aware of closed deals originating from marketing tactics. When properly orchestrated, audience persona’s will be developed and serve as a foundation to which content is generated, optimized and communicated to potential customers. They, in turn, are the quality visitors who engage with content on optimized landing pages and are nurtured towards a closed deal with relevant and valuable information. Understanding the buyer’s journey (so we can focus on important customers who we wish to close deals with, up-sell and resell and have them become advocates of our business) is the ideal situation. We’ve seen it countless times and I’ve not met a business owner yet that has frowned upon a “less traffic, more conversions” scenario. It’s not a simple process though. It takes research, planning, patience and polished execution to make these programs successful. But, through SEO and other digital marketing tactics, we can provide the communication of great content to target audiences and bring quality traffic (rather than quantity) to our business websites for engagement.
Don’t get overwhelmed! Our 5-Second Checklist will keep you on task.